Those who are exposed to the sanAtan philosophy would be well conversant with the word SatchidAnanda The expression SatchidAnanda is one of the most unique statements found only in sanAtana philosophy. As a matter of fact it explains the entire philosophy, its character and purpose in that one single word.
The birth of any religious philosophy begins with life and its relationship with the surroundings around and governing life. The awe and wonder associated with the phenomenal world and our life within it are the first triggering points for the birth of religion. Let us do a little imaginative thinking as to how it must have started.
The first developing man could not have missed thinking about birth, death, trials and tribulations of life, its difficulties and suffering. He must have thought that if the life’s activities could be arranged and a pattern created, then his difficulties and misery could be that much controlled and would be more conducive to his happiness.
For the purpose of managing life, he must have devised certain ‘do’s and ‘don’ts for himself and others around him on whom he depends for his survival. A list of codes and conducts for life would have been the first religious tenets. In different faiths these are often referred as commandments, or KarmAkarma upadeshAvali etc.
By following it faithfully he must have experienced its merits and benefits for himself as well as others in the group. That would have been the beginning of any faith and then developed into a religion. Thus every religion has a set of commandments to begin with and designed for better livelihood. SanAtan philosophy too has well documented scriptures that address to every aspect of life.
From birth to death how must one conduct himself were all codified keeping happiness, peace and self improvement as the objectives. The human mind as it developed it went on to introduce finer refinements The most important preoccupation of any religion is ‘life’. Religion is no religion unless it addresses to life.
Religion is no religion until it respects life, every life including ours. Hence all religions of importance began with ‘Life’. The boundary of man’s consciousness was initially the life and its surroundings. But the natural characteristic of mind is such that it constantly enlarges its boundary.
Every activity adds knowledge, and every new knowledge opens new areas for exploration. Let us indulge in a little further imagination. It would not have taken long to be aware that each and every movement of life is influenced by great many more manifested things on which man has no control.
There is another more powerful force that controls these external elements and conditions which in turn have their control over life. the great red fireball rising out of the rim of the eastern sky, shining and floodlighting all around dispelling the darkness of the night, the raging power of the wind , water and fire, the great firmament of planets and stars would have made his mind wonder in amazement taking his attention away from the mundane life.
What is all this? How did it happen? Who did it? Or in the end of the day, the returning of darkness, millions of twinkling lights, a blowing storm, a blossoming flower, a newborn babe, the splendor of mornings and evenings, the fire, the waters of the ocean- everything around and everything within would have filled him in wonderment.
The same question would have shaken him- what? how? Who is behind all this? The Sanskrit word for this is vismay. This amazement, this wonder, this vismay has triggered the very progress of mankind and shall continue to do so. The same questions would never leave the man and man shall continue to wonder; who is behind all these wonderful and awesome happenings? And, that indeed is the beginning of yogasAdhanA, the reason for all our quest. Kah u devah? Who is the divine power behind? The seed of this quest is in that amazement, that vismay.
The day this sense of amazement would dry up, man will be as good as dead. It has been so nicely said; Vismayam yoga bhumikA. The very springboard of yoga is vismay; the childlike sense of wonder about all that is unfolding before us all the time from time immemorial. So the first thinkers of sanAntan philosophy saw that exploring life and devising a code of conduct for life is essential but does not deliver the complete truth. Life is important but the source of life obviously is something beyond life. That has to be explored at any cost in order to understand the true meaning and purpose of life.
Because he immediately saw that there are so many imponderables in life which only something higher, something more knowledgeable and something more powerful can explain. SanAntan philosophy recognized the profoundness of life but immediately saw the incompleteness of that profoundness. The search therefore did not rest with life but looked beyond for an answer. Kah u devah? Who is the divine power behind? This is a more powerful objective for man’s philosophical quest. It is this that gave birth to spiritualism. Tat savitur varenyam.
The philosophy revered and searched for that higher truth. Many religious and spiritual thought researches gave this truth different names. SanAtan philosophy recognized it as Brahman the SatchidAnanda . The Sat or the absolute truth of all things that explains the essence of everything , the chit or its full realization and great satisfaction of happiness and bliss - Ananda- on realisation of that truth. That is the answer to that question Kasmin nu vijnAte sarvamidam vijnAtam bhavati iti? What is that when known, everything is known? What is that knowledge that holds answer to all questions? as asked in Mundaka Upanishad.
So for sanAtan philosophy knowing about life and the phenomenon of creation all around was never the end of the journey. It saw the flow of the phenomenon of all life and all manifestations emerging from that power with that unquestionable link between the two. The link established the similarity and the unbroken oneness of the two and this realization came out as that great exclamation, SARVAM KHALVIDAM BRAHMA.With that mahAvAkya it could explain the multifaceted existence of the creation, its movements and the purpose behind everything. So that is the original and everything else could be explained as mere partial reproductions of the original, perfect or deficient in their own way for their own purpose.
Sri Aurobindo thus observed –“SatchidAnanda is the unity of the many sidedness of the manifested things, the eternal harmony of all their variations and oppositions, the infinite perfection which justifies their limitations and is the goal of their imperfections.”
The most important occupation of religion is ‘life’, a respect of life and its betterment. But unlike many other religious thoughts, the sanatan philosophy saw beyond the mundane life and tried to explore that supreme power that controls and protects life and the truth about that power which it named as SatchidAnanda or Brahman.
When man contemplated on this thought, he got his first revealation that everything indeed is nothing but Brahman. SARVAM KHALVIDAM BRAHMA ) The concept of SatchidAnanda or Brahman is the measure of the height of man’s mental achievement. How could man achieve this great success? Another mahAvAkya goes on to explain. It is no big deal really. The essence of that success is already there within the man. TAT TVAM ASI.
You are verily that concept and not different from that truth. You only discovered the wealth which was within your chest. A truth to get firmly ingrained needs to be repeated to get convinced. Man convinced himself by saying SOHAM – I am that, I am verily that Brahman. AHAM BRAHMASMI.
Why that conviction was required? Because there is no other answer, that can explain the various riddles and purpose concerning life and the entire creation. There is no other way the distracting doubts can be quelled. People continue to ask, ‘why does man have to convince himself of his, as well as everything else’s connection with Brahman?’ Because when the basic questions about life and existence tend to shatter the peace of mind, there is no other answer more satisfactory than this to regain his composure. Any other answer falls flat under scrutiny.
But sarvam khalvidam Brahma and tat tvam asi sound most reasonable. As the conviction grows, the realization of Aham BrahmAsmi comes naturally. Yoga sAdhanA as is commonly understood is only a process by which the self reflects the characteristics of the divine. A reflector certainly brings light into areas of darkness in the lives of fellow beings which we often understand as a noble act rendered by the yogis which should be emulated by us.
But then you remain still a reflector only. The SanAtan philosophy goes beyond this concept and discovers that instead of being a reflector you have the power to be the light itself- self luminous without any trace of tamashA or darkness That luminosity is already within us hidden waiting to be discovered. –TAT TVAM ASI- That is when the process ends and the yogi basks in the glory of Ananda the bliss.
You look back everything behind as mere intermediary stages – only a partial achievement of your full potential. The physical world around us – the bhur – is Brahman manifested and in all its movements and characteristics introduces us to Brahman. It is quite in order to recognize this and remain involved and work within this world and perform dharma as an individual and social entity. But this physical world is engulfed and influenced by the intermediary world –the antariksha – the bhuvah- containing innumerable other worlds.
That antariksha is also Brahman and until we have an integrated knowledge of both bhur and bhuvah our knowledge is only partial and our activities will not be to its full potential. The sanAtan philosophy goes beyond this to discover that both bhur and bhuvah are surrounded by another world of truth and knowledge – the svar- that governs the movements and characteristics of both these worlds with its omniscient and omnipotent power.
This transcendental discovery is what we recognize as true realization of SatchidAnanda , God or Brahman. Thus being happy with the knowledge of bhur or the bhuvah will only be a partial realization. Our objective is to see the oneness of the entire cosmic arrangement and the truth that governs the working of everything. That truth or the savitA is to be known and adored. Tat savitur varenyam and remind ourselves that we are an integral part of the whole. (To be continued)
Based on lectures by Sri Bimal Mohanty
Author Bio :
Sri Bimal Mohanty manages the movement 'Spiritual Approach to Life" http://www.ahwan.org